Nutella and sea salt caramel chocolate fudge (and a failure turned positive)

(Please note that I am writing this post on Sunday, June 5.  I am writing this message to the future.  All feelings of anguish expressed within this post will be long gone [hopefully] at point of reading. Caution)

I FEEL SO ILL.

I would not recommend my Sunday afternoon eating habits to anyone.  Just in case you’re wondering, marshmallow fluff and nutella are a terrible, terrible combination.

And by terrible, I mean utterly and irrevocably delicious…until you eat several hundred spoonfuls straight from the jar.

So much happiness, so much pain.

My afternoon: Take heaping spoonful of marshmallow fluff.  Insert in mouth.  Take heaping spoonful of nutella (note: ensure you use a different spoon and eat the marshmallow first, as to not dirty the marshmallow spoon with melted nutella).  Insert in mouth.  Enjoy.  Repeat for the next three hours.

If it was possible to die from a sugar overload, I would not have made it through the day.  You can’t really blame me though – I have never in my life purchased a jar of marshmallow fluff or nutella, so I had 21 years of spreadable sugar deprivation to make up for.

So why did I break the ever-established rules of my dietician mother and get these two nutritionally void products?

To make nutella and sea salt caramel chocolate fudge, of course.

Instagram, love, love, love

As the title suggests, this was quite the decadent dessert.  So many layers.  So much sugar.  Enough to make any one diabetic, really.

As I often do with complex, multi-layered foods, here is the anatomy of this sinfully rich dessert:

Layer 1: Melted chocolate and nutella fudge
Layer 2: Homemade sea salt caramel
Layer 3: Chopped hazelnuts
Layer 4: Some sort of strange marshmallow fudge layer, which utilized an ENTIRE JAR of marshmallow fluff (this post is warranting so much capitalization, apologies)
Layer 5: More melted chocolate and nutella fudge.

The layer-by-layer breakdown photo (minus the top fudge layer) was inspired by my dear friend and fellow blogger Brittany.  Visit her blog, it is awesome.

Now, I was originally supposed to make this fudge for an office meeting we were having on Monday.

WHAT WAS I THINKING? 

The only age group who enjoys layer upon layer of sugar is the under 20 bracket.  Not grown ups.  Perhaps what happened next was for the best.

Yep, you guessed it.  The fudge got stuck in the bowl.

It was completely my fault.  The blogger whose recipe I was using said this should be made in a big 9×9 pan.  Instead, I insisted on using a deep Pyrex dish (to be frank, I was too lazy to run over to my old house to get my baking pan…lame).  Clearly the part of my brain that determines when rational decisions should be made was on an extended vacation.

The emotional breakdowns that resulted from this sticky situation were not pleasant, and I am embarrassed to say that I ate away my feelings.  Yes, that’s right.  I ate even more.

The pictures you see in this post are of the two almost-full pieces of fudge that I managed to salvage and make look presentable.

So what will I do now?  Eat the destroyed fudge with ice cream, of course!

In the meantime, though, I think I need a glass of milk.

A word to the wise: if you are to recreate this recipe, please, please, PLEASE follow the actual instructions.  None of this Pyrex nonsense.

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Happy Birthday Lindsay! (ft. Martha Stewart’s tiramisu cupcakes)

Fact: every dessert is better in cupcake form.

Heck, lets just broaden that statement to say that anything is better in cupcake form.

Including tiramisu.

This past Friday was my roommate Lindsay’s birthday.

Since we haven’t been living together for very long, and because we are both lovers of good dessert, I wanted to make her something special for her birthday.  She requested either ice cream cake or tiramisu.  I settled on the latter, having already conquered the frozen fates when I made my homemade ice cream cake back in February.

Obviously I couldn’t just make any old tiramisu.  Silly you for thinking so.

Martha Stewart’s website has a bounty of creative cupcake ideas, albeit ones that are fairly complicated (to the point that the recipes come accompanied by a tutorial video – yikes!).  It was here that I discovered the recipe for these.

I have never used so many kitchen do-dads to make one batch of cupcakes.  I was boiling, brewing, sifting, melting and brushing… It all worked out though.  What can I say? #justcallmemartha

Having just moved into a new house with many left behind/forgotten baking utensils, I had to get creative with my methods.  For example, I used a cheese grater from IKEA as a sieve and a salad-bowl-in-a-pot as a double boiler.  I try to be resourceful, I really do.

The outcome of much kitchen labour was a batch of 15 pretty awesome cupcakes.  The cake was spongey and light (although a tad burnt on the bottom, woops).  The chocolate-marsala sauce that was brushed over the top tasted delicious (although, as Matt pointed out, it tasted a little like some sort of sushi sauce, but he is just crazy).  Finally, the pièce de résistance was the mascarpone cheese icing that was so light but so rich.

ONE more thing: I splurged and bought vanilla beans for these cupcakes!  A real life vanilla bean (actually, two).  It cost me an arm and a leg (AKA $7), but it was totally worth it.

PS (I lied with the one more thing): can you tell that I’ve been making a conscious effort to create the “setting” for my food photos?  I’ve noticed that most food blogs feature a bunch of random background items (emphasized by their sweet cameras and actual ability to achieve some sort of bokeh), so I thought I’d try doing the same thing.  These shots featured Lindsay’s container of cocoa and a silk scarf I bought at a garage sale.

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An on-the-fly dinner for guests: fresh asparagus pasta with sun dried tomatoes and mini lime cheesecakes

I enjoy stressing myself out.

Last Wednesday night I invited my former roommate Alex over for a “lets catch up on each others lives and gossip shamelessly” sesh.  Obviously dinner was to be included.  I don’t have guests over any other way.

In hindsight, I probably should have realized that weekday evening dinners are a little chaotic.  Throw in a guest, an after work grocery shop via bike and backpack and my great need to make an extravagant, three-course meal, and you have a potential meltdown on your hands.

But not tonight.

I hope you are partially impressed by the fact that this meal was completely prepared within an under-two-hour time span.  FYI: that includes the grocery store trip and a painful, construction filled bike commute.

#awesome

For the main course,  a spaghetti dish I found on tastespotting, made with fresh pasta (ever since I was a child I’ve had a unparalleled love of uncooked, fresh pasta… much pre-dinner snacking occurred), peas, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes.  For someone who had never tried the latter two ingredients before, this was a make-it-or-break-it meal for me.  The chopped asparagus tasted like the stalks of broccoli and the sun-dried tomatoes were like slabs of dried ketchup.  This may sound gross, but I actually enjoyed it profusely.

Leftover goat cheese also made an appearance.  Happiness ensued.

If anything, the dessert was the most chaotic part of this meal.

Time was of the ultimate importance, which is why I chose to make these no-bake cheesecakes.  The recipe, which I adapted ever so slightly from Canadian Living, suggested I refrigerate everything for long periods of time.

Translation: if you are short on time, just pop everything in the freezer for an hour.  Voila, a dessert prepared and set in the blink of an eye.  Add some poorly cut lime slices and peel, and you have the cutest little cheesecakes you’ve ever seen.

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Chipotle chocolate brownies

ALSO technically known as Cinco de Mayo pt. 3, but it is really too late in the month for me to include that in the title. Shame on me.  SHAME.

My half-week blog neglect came as a result of this kid visiting Ottawa for the past few days.  With Matt having left last night, I declare today to be my day of refocus.  I intend to clean my bedroom (which is a complete hole), do piles and piles of laundry, and clear out the grocery store in a haul that is worthy of a king (on my bicycle of course).  I start my summer job at University Affairs magazine tomorrow, and am hoping to quickly get into a routine that sees me working, biking, and food-ing out in a hardcore way.

But first, I must tell you about these brownies.

Yum, yum, yum.

In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I decided to do a spiced chocolate/Mexican chocolate brownie adaption.  My choice of dessert was also swayed by sheer laziness, and a lack of desire to create the complicated (but traditional) deep fried banana/ice cream combinations that Cinco de Mayo websites were suggesting.  And so, the chipotle chocolate brownie was created.

I half made up the recipe, combining a variety of ingredients and instructions from a few different websites.  The result was a gigantic 9×13 pan of brownies.  Please note, there are currently two people living in my house.  Much brownie was eaten for breakfast, lunch, supper and the occasional midnight snack.  Half was given to my landlord’s wife as a “thank you for fixing our dryer/thanks for letting us live in this awesome house” gift.

I bake for people, that’s just what I do.

Turns out my spontaneous purchasing of a $6 bottle of chipotle chili pepper was totally worth it.  The brownies had a divine spicy kick and were moist and slightly undercooked on the inside (just the way I like them).  On top, a generous spoonful of dulce de leche ice cream to cool off the spiced hotness of the brownie.  Delicious on so many different levels.

And with that, my friends, I bid an “adios” to Mexican cuisine for another few months!

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Mother’s Day and dad’s birthday, served up in one family feast

My mom and dad sure have a talent for celebration co-ordination.

Mom (don't mind the beached whale of a pitbull in the background)
Dad (sorry - I had nicer pictures but Garrett insisted I use this one)

Huh?  Let me explain…

As you know (if you are good little sons and daughters), yesterday was mother’s day, the holiday where you are meant to wine, dine and brunch your dear ol’ mum to her heart’s content.  Also accompanying the Sunday festivities, however, was my dad’s Friday birthday.  See, celebration co-ordination, requiring a double whammy of gifts and cards galore.

The other peak of festivity in my household falls in early September, thanks to my parents having decided to get married on my mom’s birthday.  A few years ago her 50th birthday corresponded with their 20th wedding anniversary.  Guess who played grade 10 party planner?

But anyways, NBD.  It’s fun, and it means that I can hit up two holidays with one hometown return.

It also gives me a shameless excuse to make food for my family.

What was on the menu? Check it out below.

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